If you have been in the civil service for many years, then you may wonder about how to calculate your CSRS annuity payments that you will receive after you have separated from federal service. The CSRS basic annuity is one of the chief perks that CSRS covered employees get when they retire. It comprises a major portion of their lifetime compensation for their service to U.S. government.
In most cases, the calculation that is used to compute the amount of your monthly CSRS annuity is relatively straightforward. You can make this calculation yourself to get at least a rough estimate of what your monthly annuity payout will be after you stop working.
Here, we will break this formula down in detail to show you how to calculate your CSRS annuity payments so you know what you will get each month.
The CSRS Annuity Calculation
The basic formula that is used to calculate your CSRS retirement annuity is based upon a combination of your years of creditable service and your highest three consecutive years of salary (which are usually your last three years of service in most cases). Here is a simple breakdown of the CSRS annuity formula:
Years of Federal Service
What You Will Be Paid
1st 5 years of service
The average of the 3 highest-paying consecutive years of service within that 5-year period times 1.5 percent
2nd 5 years of service
The average of the 3 highest-paying consecutive years of service within that 5-year period times 1.75 percent
All years of service in excess of 10 years
The average of the 3 highest-paying consecutive years of service within that time span times 2 percent
The maximum possible benefit that you can get from your CSRS is 80% of your high-3 average salary in addition to all credited sick pay. However, this limit typically only applies to employees who have at least 41 years and 11 months of service under their belts.
Can You Have Reductions to Your CSRS Annuity Payments?
Several possible factors can reduce the income from your CSRS basic annuity during retirement. For example, if you choose to retire before you have reached age 55, then your annuity will be reduced by 1/6th of 1% (or 2% per year) for each month or year that you are under age 55.
So, if you retire at age 50, then your annuity would be reduced by 10% (2% per year X 5 years). Exceptions to this rule apply if you retire due to disability or retire under the special provisions created for air traffic controllers, firefighters, and law enforcement personnel (see below).
But the most common way to get your annuity reduced is to choose one of the survivor benefit options. If you choose to carry the full survivor benefit, then your annuity will be reduced by 2.5% of the first $3,600 of your benefit and then 10% of the rest of your benefit.
This means that if your benefit is $30,000 per year, then your annuity will be reduced by $2,820 ($3,600 X 2.5% + 10% X $26,400 ($30,000 – $3,600)). It’s possible that your annuity could be reduced by as much as 40% in some cases, depending upon the age difference between you and your survivor and the age of the survivor.
Your CSRS Basic Annuity and Cost of Living Adjustments
Just as with certain government programs like Social Security, your CSRS basic annuity payments will be increased at times when the cost of living goes up. These payment increases are called cost of living adjustments, or COLAs, and are designed to help your pension income keep pace with inflation.
The first adjustment that is credited to you will be based on how long you have been retired. The amounts of further adjustments will vary depending upon the rate of inflation and other factors.
Special Provisions for Certain Federal Employees
Are you in a federal employment role as a firefighter, in law enforcement, an air traffic controller, a Supreme Court Police officer, a Capitol Police officer, or in the Nuclear Materials Couriers?
If you work in one of these fields, you will use a separate formula to calculate your CSRS basic annuity. For those federal government employees who work in these occupations, the calculations are as follows:
Years of Federal Service
What You Will Be Paid
First 20 years of service
2.5% X the highest 3-year average of your base pay
Any excess CSRS service
2% X the highest 3-year average of your base pay during that period (So, if you work for 35 years, then you would take the highest 3-year average for the 15-year period over 20 years)
CSRS for Disability
If you are forced to retire early because you became completely and totally disabled, then your disability pension will most likely be equal to:
- the lesser of 40% of the average of your 3 highest-earning years of salary, or
- the amount of the regular annuity that you would obtain if you increased your service by the time between the date of your retirement and your 60th
This minimum amount isn’t applicable if you are receiving retirement pay from the military or VA income equal to your military pay. However, if your military pay plus your earned annuity is less than what it would be below the guaranteed minimum, then your annuity will automatically be increased to that level.
But if you worked in one of the special occupations listed above, then your annuity will automatically be calculated using the 2.5% multiple.
CSRS Offset, Either Immediate or Early
The exact amount of money that is paid to a CSRS offset employee is identical to the amount that would be paid to that employee otherwise. The amount that is owed to CSRS offset employees is the same as would be owed to a CSRS employee.
But the monthly CSRS benefit will be reduced by the amount of Social Security that can be attributed to their offset service, regardless of whether they start taking Social Security at age 62 or a later age. If you aren’t eligible for Social Security benefits at those points in time when other CSRS employees are able to claim them, then there will be no offset in benefits for you.
If you happen to be eligible for a Social Security benefit at either age 62 or a later age, then the Social Security Administration will take your earnings and compute your benefit both ways, both with CSRS and without it. These two amounts will then be sent to the Office of Personnel Management, who will decide how to pay it.
Calculating the Offset Reduction
In most cases, the offset reduction will be the smaller of two key numbers:
- The difference between the monthly benefit amount paid by Social Security, both with and without offset service; or
- the product of the monthly Social Security benefit amount, with federal earnings, multiplied by a fraction, where the numerator is the total amount of offset service rounded to the nearest whole number of years and the denominator is 40—expressed as a formula, (Total Social Security Benefit x Total number of Years of Offset Service), which is then divided by 40.
In most cases, the net effect of the offset is a wash. However, there are some cases where a retiree may even get a few more dollars than they would otherwise.
If you don’t return to CSRS Offset employment, your CSRS basic annuity reduction won’t change from what it was at age 62 (or whatever age you became eligible for Social Security). Future employment in some other job that is covered by Social Security won’t change this.
Note: If your survivors or beneficiaries are going to be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your CSRS Offset service earnings, the Office of Personnel Management will reduce the benefits paid to them in the same manner that it reduced yours.
Credit for CSRS with Military Service
The general rule of thumb mandates that any active-duty military service that you performed before you retired from your CSRS job is creditable to your retirement if it was active-duty service performed under honorable conditions. The duty must also have been performed prior to your separation from civilian service when you retired.
Any military service that you performed before 1957 is creditable without you having to make any type of deposit. Any service that you performed in 1957 or later can be credited to Social Security benefits starting at age 62. Otherwise, a deposit may be due to preserve your CSRS benefit.
If your government service began on or before October 1, 1982, then you can either make a deposit to credit your service for CSRS, or else you can allow your benefit to be reduced accordingly. If you were first employed by the federal government after October 1, 1982, you can either make the required deposit or else receive no credit at all for your military service.
The Bottom Line on Calculating Your CSRS Annuity Payments
There are several rules to consider when it comes to calculating your CSRS annuity payments. If you served in one of the specialized occupations listed above, then your benefits may be more generous. If you have served in the military as part of your career, then other special rules will apply.
No matter what, it’s always prudent to talk to an experienced federal benefits consultant before making any elections about your CSRS annuity payments. This may make a big difference in what you end up getting in retirement.
Want to see how all of your hard-earned benefits look now, in the future, and how they tie together? Call us or request your own, personalized federal benefits analysis today. We will show you some options for maximizing your benefits and making the most of them so that you can enjoy a secure, comfortable retirement.